April 2009

Buri goes high tech

April 30, 2009 04:52


I now have e-mail and it has a spell checker  But I still cannot get the pigeon`s  beak out of that USB thingy.  maybe it has avian flu.



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A real prodigy becomes a great artist at a price.

April 29, 2009 16:28


is it just me,  or is this panic about swine flue basically a load of old cobblers?    People get flue.  They almost always  get better....unless they are in a poor country. Maybe we should just adress the issue of poor countries instead?

In the meantime an example of one of the greatets prodigies of the 20c- Ida Haendel.  Began violin at age three.  Won the gold medal at the Polsih Academy at age er,  seven....

Check out the documentary on youtube   Some of the most breathtaking violin playing you could wish for (esp La Folia,  Poeme and Brahms concerto).  Not a sacharinne player by any means but incredibnly gutsy and dignified at the same time.  Interesting she uses two adjusters from way back.  The down side I suppose is she came across to me as about as lonely as a person can get.  

Keep in mind she is still travelling around banging out amazing concerts at goodness knows what age!



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More YouTube: Hirshhorn, Kreisler, Joachim

April 23, 2009 15:54


just a quick blog bfore the weekend vote blows it out of the water.  (Laurie- how about `If you had to choose between Kreutzer or  the complete works of sevcik with no other options which would it be?)

As Dottie noted in response ot my previous blog,  this youtube stuff can get you into the deep doo-doo of addiction.  Some quickies then.   If you have`t heard of Philip Hirshorn then it`s time.  A major competition winner when that meant something who was highly respected by Kogan.  He basically went into teaching (Janine Jansen is one of his pupils) and died way too young.  Wonderful sound,  extraordinary bowing technique- faster than average stroke.  Bit like Heifetz in that respect.   I can hear a litlte bit of nervous tension in his playing as an internal rather than physical issue) which is becoming to me a littl e bit of a sign of a talent that tend s to burn up the owner . (Cf Hassid)   Listen especially to his Geminiani and Lekeu sonata.

Of all the versions of Meditation by Thais I do not believe any version (not even the awesome Milstein) comes close to Kreisler.    He owns this piec e and the recording I heard on you tube was him at his absolute best.   If all this emotion and sentiment is putting you over the edge its time to calm down with some very honest and beautiful playing  by Joachim.  Playing Romanze in c,  presumably his own composition?    something of great integrity and value in his playing,  I think. 

Happy Listening,



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A smorsgabord of soul.

April 21, 2009 21:19


just a quick blog to highlight some highlights of my youtubing.  

Started out looking for Toscha Seidel.   One of the most highly rated of Auer`s greats he actually left the solo field to pursue work in the film industry so recordings are in fairly short supply.  This is actually rather a shame.  To my ears he has one of the most beautiful,  rich violin sounds -ever-  It`s just so rich and resonant it could stop a charging buffalo in its tracks.  Its coupled with a very accurate technique.   Why did he not have the same legendary career as Heifetz?  I am a little in agreement with some critics who have said his playing was just a little lacking the last one millionth percent of fluid nuance that characterises the truly immortal artists.  If you like,  ther e is just a slight absence of variety in his sound and approach.   However,  any violnist who has not heard this extraordinary playing and sound is missing out on something really special.  I tried cross comparisns of performance of Traumerie to see how things stood.  Elman was of course famous for his extraordinary sound but I think Seidel beats him hands down.  Elman allows more indivduality and experimentation in his playing as per my orignal reservation.   Went to a modern recording by one of my favorite artists- Joshua Bell.   Unfortunately,  the live performance available sound rather thin and uninspired in comparison with the previous recordings so just for a laugh I thought I`d  go for a piano version.  That was Horowitz in his last performance in Moscow which I heard about twenty five years ago.   It is so beautiful you can feel the emotions of the audience suspended in the stratosphere.  Some of the greatest music making one could wish for.  If you are going to play Traumerie then listening to Horowitz is a must.  He was Schumann personfied.  It`s almost painful!

Then I starting thinking about how many Russian violinists said they were profoundly influenced by the singer Chaliapin so I went to his recording from Don Quixote.  This is a sound I have never heard before and don`t expect to hear live again.  It`s a force of nature that comes out of the very bowels of the earth and suspends all sense of reality .   At that moment I understand precisely what Milstein et al felt when they saw him.  In MIlstein`s autobiography he describes a strange sickness he suffered after hearing Chaliapin-an overdose of art.  I can believe it.

I was in the singing arena so I though I`d jump to a Lotte Lehmann masterclass.  If you want a demonstration of how not to do it here it is.  A young artist sang a song by Brahms. Lehneman stood said `let me show you` and then sang it all the way through again.  End of story.  Mmmmm.......

Finally I felt like a look at an artist I do`t usually listen to that much- Issac Stern.  His playing of a Mozart piano and violin sonata is absolutely wonderful.  Exemplary musicianship,  technique ,  taste,  bow control.  I have to say that I have yet to see any of today`s players get that close to just flawless Mozart and music although I have heard Hilary Hahn live come close.  The sheer bow control was awesome.  What I did miss a litlte in his playing was the way someone like Milstein (a maste rof Mozart for me)  occasionally used a more luminous or tranparent tone color.  Stern has a huge range of expression but his palette does tend to avoid the ocasisonal watercolor.  The hues are very solid.

Hope there is something here of interest to someone.  If not go back to Monty Python.



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Picks of the week.

April 18, 2009 01:18


now I have a new computer I have been abusing youtube to the extent I feel like writing a `three picks of the week.`

The interesting thing I have found is that it can be very illuminating to keep switching quite rapidly between player s in the same piece.  Of course I have to be polite about Hilary because she used my Schoenburger neoligism but really she comes out time and time again as one of the most beautiful sounding and perfect player s of today.  And not in any boring sense. Its a very subtle thing but I am more and more impressed with her all the time.   So go for her Mozart four.  She`s gone her own way with phrasing and articulation,  often quite smooth compared to the born again baroquers but its just awesome.

The only other player who i find really comparable in Mozart is Mr. Vengerov playing Mozart two.  That is so beautiful.  It reminds me that in one of his master classes he compares the opening chord of Mozart three to the first big d major cruncher in the Tchaik and notes how they have to have different colors. That every composition has to have its own unique color.  His sound is Mozart as perfect as one could wish for.

The third item is a real prize.  It actually shook my view of the Beethoven concerto quite considerably.  Joshua Bell,  no conducter and the Orpheus orchestra. My first reaction was the tempo was too fast for my taste. But that quickly disappeared when I notice d the reduce size of the band created an amazing transparency and I could hear very beautifully worked out dynamic contrast and articulations in the opening that one doesn`t normally get.   This is real subtle.  Bell comes in and for a second it almost seems causal and uncommitted as he plays through rapidly and cleanly with no big rubatos or gestures. Then you just realize its simply egoless and unaffected.  he sees the opening and indeed the whole work as a complete organic whole in which there just happens to be a lone fiddler adding some extra twiddly bits.  Its so well integrated,  so right and so different from how one traditionally sees the greats play it-  perfect chamber music.(and its in tune. ) Learn a lot from this one.

Having done with these three you would be well advised to watch Monty Python  Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto no1.  No comment needed.



4 replies | Archive link

Lie low with Lalo on your Lilo.

April 9, 2009 22:32


For a beginning student the selection of works to play is often not that difficult.  The teacher might even be systematically adhering to a system such as Suzuki, Adventures in Violinland or Doflein in which case it is something of a no-brainer.  There are plenty of other problems to deal with. However, I have found that even using the last two methods which I consider really sound, I often can jump start a student to a much higher level by throwing something much more challenging at the student. Perhaps one of the specially written student concertos. One of the things beginners to find a bit of a shock is having to work on longer pieces.  That is a managerial art of a kind even though  the actual technical demands may not be that much higher than in a shorter work. The leap needs to be made at some point.  The repertoire list from ASTA is a helpful guide as well, allowing the teacher flexibility and a reasonable degree of reliability.  However, once one gets past the initial stages even in that work one starts to see difficulties of classifications and generalizations that could prove less than helpful in the wrong hands.  In the past the so called `soviet school` (Oistrak/Kogan period) had a very clear learning sequence for violin works.  Presumably deviation from this path led to one cultivating prunes in the Gulags. Although a system of clear technical evolution was apparent it did I think, stifle some talents and have a tendency to straitjacket.
In the realm of the major concertos it gets even more confusing.   Is there a sensible order for learning them?   The factors involved are so numerous.  One might for example have a student who can make a reasonable stab at the Sibelius who would actually benefit a great deal from some in depth work on a Mozart concerto which they might well view as a big step backwards.  Is it better to start getting to grips with major works that are barely within a students technical grasp yet musically beyond them?    Or is one going to use a masterpiece that the student is dying to start on to pull up a technical level which is not quite ready?  In the past students have been fed a great many fine works by violinist composers such as Kreutzer, Spohr, Viotti, and Vieuxtemps before doing the Mendelssohn.  Was that so bad? It’s very debatable when we routinely see kids of 8 or 9 playing the Mendelssohn or Paginini caprices.
Probably it`s all somewhat case by case but I do have quite a strong opinion on concerto order in one case.  The question occasionally crops up which should come first between Mendelssohn,   Bruch, Saint Seans 3 and the Lalo Symphony Espagnole.  I have a definite preference for preceding the former with extensive work on at least the first movement but preferably all of the Lalo.   Hopefully without disrespecting it as a fine piece of music I think it can function a training work leading into the other works thereby allowing them to be approached on a purely interpretive technical level.   Not sure if this is entirely clear, but basically I think the kind of passage work found in the Lalo can be used to improve 3 fuzzy areas:1) all manner of aspects of technique, in particular,   accuracy of shifting, bowing planes and string crossing, and sound production   2)  develop the kind of stamina and soloistic attitude necessary for later works and 3) force the student to think very carefully about creating contrast in color through rather long phrases that are just a little repetitive.   Perhaps this last aspect is rather esoteric but I think paradoxically the player will be better quipped to find some of the more subtle nuances inherent in Mendelssohn et al if they have already had to create their own in long stretches of basically good material that can be terribly boring if it is all played the same way.
Cheers and prunes,

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Mendelssohn, Muttering and Mutter.

April 7, 2009 15:58


I love the way life continues to confirm I was born under a lucky star.  My good friend, the composer Daniel Forro, told me a while back that he wanted to learn the violin repertoire (as an accompanist) so I have had the rare opportunity of playing about ten sonatas a month with a top class player and extraordinary musician.   For some reason I had only ever played the first three accompanied sonatas of Bach - I think it may have been financial since two books are expensive.  Since we had become so enamored of the first three I splashed out on the second set in the new Manze edition.  This has got to be some of the most powerful music ever!  Jusr playing one of these sonatas one time is an enormous drain on emotional and mental resources. but we always do all the repeats and then play through a second time!  It’s a great learning experience for me because Daniel is a composer. So every time we stop he points out stuff to me that is fascinating.  For example he played me some passages in the Aeolian mode out of context while muttering `It` s pure Debussy.  Listen Buri, he’s writing Debussy. ` or `My God, he’s written parallel octaves here I would have corrected in one of my students but they are brilliant.  This man is wild.` or `Unbelievable, he follows a Neapolitan 6th chord with a tonic. Unbelievable. Mein Gott. Unbelievable. ` 
He mutters a lot....
    I am becoming much more sensitive to Bach’s avant garde use of harmony so sometimes I start giggling in the middle of some really esoteric stuff.  The works themselves really do follow a progression into some murky areas, Don`t be mislead  by the easy beauty of the first three!!!!
Then we got onto Mendelssohn.   The first sonata is a Haydnesque effort that is clearly part of a learning process.  It’s actually fairly charming.   And there`s Daniel in the background muttering `Men Gott, Mein Gott, he was eleven when he wrote this.  Mein Gott. Some mistakes, some things he doesn’t know but....Mein Gott .  Mein Gott.` 
Actually I really recommend this work to teachers. Its technically very accessible in the sort of post Corelli early Mozart level but, there are actually a number of very original ideas that make it really fun to play.  It’s not a shallow work by any means.  For general facility while learning a charming work it is very valuable.  More so than the first concerto I think....
Then we got onto the second sonata.  Now this is where it gets interesting because I have the new urtext edition of this and have been studying ASM`s recording (DVD) quite carefully.   First off I would say it is a truly outstanding performance.   Then I would note that she has very thoughtfully omitted a few superfluous notes, especially at phrase ending where Mendelssohn was doubling the piano and didn’t realize that they were very unviolinstic and unnecessary.  Many of these are actually in some of the annotations and revisions discussed in the urtext, of which there are many. Some of them are not. Then she has corrected some things that are not corrected in any of the extant copies which is deserving of great kudos.
However, just stop for a moment and imagine you are having a weird vilin nerd dream featuring  the Beethoven Spring Sonata.  The piano comes in in the first bar with the violin playing the undulating accompaniment.  Later the roles reverse and the violin takes the melody etc. The content is the same but two huge sections have actually been reversed.  You would be a tad gob-smacked nest pas?   Well, as far as I can tell, ASM has actually done this a few times in this sonata as well as making some other cuts and adding some syncopated figures that I cannot find any record of.  It takes some getting used to but is it wrong?
Considering that the composer had to work really hard with David to get a finished product of sorts what’s the difference?  Another great violinist posthumously helping Mendelssohn.. Naughty, but nice! 
  I’m not going to speculate that her ex- husband Mr. Previn, who just happens to be playing the piano and is a brilliant composer and conductor in his own right might have had something to do with it.  A sneak attack question for Laurie’s next interview with her maybe?
Anyway, the sonata is not that hard technically.  The piano part too sounds fiendish but is very pianistic and Daniel actually ate it up on the first run through.  He was wildly excited afterwards (Mein Gott, Mein Gott) and explained that he had gone through a conceptual shift while playing the work.  He had previously felt that the really intense efforts to integrate romanticism and classicism belonged to Brahms, Schumann, Dvorak etc but that in this work it had already been done.  Much earlier than he had previously argued.   We both also experience another kind of change in that the work draws on the kind of power associated with Sturm und Dreng to a huge extent.  More so perhaps than the violin concerto.   We both came away from the experience feeling that Mendelssohn was a much more heavyweight composer than previous experience with the piano works and the odd symphony had suggested.  I suspect ASM also feels this as her interpretation of the concerto errs towards the meaty rather than delicate side which is , as far as I can see, somewhat in vogue these days.
What’s next? Daniel keeps muttering `Enescu, Enescu.`
Probably my turn with the` Mein Gotts.`



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